Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tama Mai Saute Dance Academy – Wellbeing through Siva Samoa

Tama Mai Saute Dance Academy
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Albany and Josh - Co-founders of TMS. Photo: Provided
Albany and Josh – Co-founders of TMS. Photo: Provided
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

The Pasifika culture has always been enriched with dancing since its early times.

Dancing has always been known as a way of connecting with the culture for a lot of islanders who have migrated away from the islands. Enforcing this connection in Christchurch, is the Tama Mai Saute Dance Academy.

Established during the first national lockdown in 2020, Tama Mai Saute Dance Academy are dancing their way to the top. Their aim is to instil the importance of the Samoan culture not only within the Pasifika community of Christchurch but New Zealand, through the art of Siva Samoa.

Co-founded by Josh Vaifale and Albany Heperona Peseta Seumanutafa. Up close, Tama Mai Saute could be seen as your regular dance class in a normal dance studio setting. However, Josh and Albany revealed that the whole purpose of establishing Tama Mai Saute ran deeper than just dance.

“Our vision at Tama Mai Saute Dance Academy is to uplift the well being of Pasifika people and to instil a sense of belonging in cultural connection.

Me and Josh got back together after Polyfest 2020 here in Christchurch, and we have always shared the same passion for our culture. We had discussed at the time to start up our dance academy but it was one of those conversations that never really happened”, says Albany

Albany adds that it was during the first lockdown, where they sat down and mapped out the whole foundation of TMS.

Coming up to its year anniversary, Tama Mai Saute continues to go from strength to strength. From two members to twenty five, the routine work of classes and community programs still continues daily. TMS also have experienced tutors within their respective classes for male and female dancers. Their elite classes also field 11 girls and boys.

Tama Mai Saute Dance Academy Tutors. Photo: Facebook
Tama Mai Saute Dance Academy Tutors. Photo: Facebook

For Josh and Albany, dancing has always been part of them for as long as they can remember and even though they had different paths of how they stumbled into the craft, both admit that the same passion and drive has always forefronted their work with Tama Mai Saute.

Josh says, “I got introduced to it through church and the items we performed for church plays. I realised that I could do better and take my knowledge to a higher level and have been dancing ever since then” .

“For me, I studied in a performing arts school where I was taught to be a ballet, tap or jazz dancer,” Albany reflected.

“I knew straight away I was not going to be a ballet or tap dancer, but I did learn a lot from these classes. One of the main lessons I took out of that experience was having patience, which has been a great tool for me in applying it to TMS. You have to be patient in not only dancing as a craft but also in conveying it out to whoever you teach”

Much of this passion became a vessel for Josh and Albany to find their sense of belonging with their Samoan culture. Now, they are willing to share that with members of the community who have or wish to sign up with TMS.

Tama Mai Saute Dance Academy_Students. Photo: Facebook
Tama Mai Saute Dance Academy_Students. Photo: Facebook

“From our school’s program, kids are feeling lost and have no way of expressing their voice or identity. We are able to provide these students with something they can gravitate towards in terms of the culture and dancing” said Albany, who also heads their schools program.

“Being able to bridge the gap between the young and older generation through our work at TMS, we believe that it would benefit for many young Pasifika people who struggle with understanding the culture”

While TMS overcame some criticism during the early days of setting up their academy, Josh and Albany turned it into motivation fuelling their commitment to their project. Both boys pay tribute to their families who have helped alongside their journey.

“We had a few doubts within our community about us starting this. Many said that this will be just a one hit wonder and it would die out eventually”.

Josh added, “I personally saw it as motivation rather than a setback. It made me and Albz want to continue on working towards our goal. It was a first for something like this to be in Christchurch so a lot of people had their doubts”

Looking towards the future, Tama Mai Saute shows no signs of slowing down, with their eyes on bigger and better ambitions. A major inclusion of these future plans involve their own personal studio where they can hold their dance programs and also open it up to other performing arts projects in Christchurch.

“I think for Josh and I, one of the big goals we have for five or ten years in time is to own our own building. In this building we have dance studios, a theatre, we have offices and classes ready for use”, says Albany.

“To be honest, there is nothing like that which accommodates Christchurch and its pacific community. You have all these amazing people and groups doing their thing, but have no roof above their head where they can create and work”

Josh adds the importance of manifesting for a building in the future.

“Just having a space where anyone can come in and do whatever creative work they need, that is our goal with Albz. Hopefully one day we get to see our logo on the top of our own building. It’s a big vision for us, but I know we will get there”

In the meantime, TMS continues their work in the community through its regular classes and programs. The team are also in the works with Maori Television where they will feature on an episode on Season of Giants. The episode is set to air in April and will highlight the work TMS is doing in the community.

To learn more about Tama Mai Saute, visit www.tamamaisaute.com or find them on Facebook and Instagram



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